Choosing names for your characters is a bit like naming a baby. Even though the baby has grown inside of you, and it is of your creation, you know nothing about it. It’s a blank canvas. You can only hope it will take on the best of your traits, but you may discover later on in its life, the only part of you your child possess is the name or names you imparted on them. The baby might be created from your gene pool, even have some similarities to you .i.e. in the colour of its hair, eyes, a certain way of looking, and then there’s that smile which has essence of its grandmother’s or maybe its father’s smile. Our children will grow into whoever they want to be, and be so unlike us in so many ways, we are surprised we actually gave birth to them. I know I found my son is nothing like me. 🙂

Unlike giving babies suitable names that they grow into, when giving our characters their names we have a far greater control over what sort of person they will be come. Though don’t be fool by that, like our own children your characters will surprise you by acting out of character. As we write our character’s profile giving them all sorts of interesting traits, hair colour, eyes, etc, and even down to the type of clothes and food they love best, but as the words flow they take on a life of their own, and who knows where they will take our story. They might even rewrite our plot for us.

When I wrote the Mourning Birds as an entry for the BBC Short Story Competition back in 2014, I already knew who my main characters were going to be. Dave and Joan are my neighbours and they were in their early seventies when I wrote the original story. They are a loving couple who make me laugh as their sense of humour is wonderful. Watching them interact with each other over the most simple of things, they bring a smile to my face. During the rewrite of the story I extended the length of the tale and changed the title to The Funeral Birds. Of course, the couple in the book are much younger too and I changed their surname to Cavendish.

Always carry your promotional cards with you.

Cavendish is a village in Suffolk and is famous for its thatched cottages and picturesque green, set against a backdrop of the historic Saint Mary’s Church and the Five Bells free house. It’s a quintessential English Village. When my son was young I used to take him to his father’s for the weekend, and we used to past by the turning for Cavendish, so one day we took a look at the village.

Today while I was in a charity shop, the woman behind the counter was telling her colleague that she was from Cavendish.

“Such an interesting place,” I said, “that I used it as a surname for a character in my book.”

“A character in your book…So you write books. That’s such a difficult thing to do,” the lady from Cavendish said.

I pulled out one of my cards and gave it to her.

“Oh, I can’t believe you just walk around like it’s normal, and you write books. I shall be checking them out,” she said with such a bright smile.

So by choosing the name Cavendish for my character gave me a link to the lady from Cavendish which allowed me to hand her one of my book promotional card within a natural conversation. Hopefully, she will check my books out and enjoy reading them.

So choose your characters names wisely because you never know when it will open a conversation to help promote your work.

Happy writing,

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